New Report Finds Art Museums Dependent on Charitable Donations

Guggenheim Museum of Art in New York City

A new report on art museum funding states that museums such as the Guggenheim rely on dwindling charitable donations.
Image: vvoe / Shutterstock.com

A new report by the Association of Art Museum Directors, called “Art Museums by the Numbers 2014,” found that museums spend far more per guest than they receive in admissions and purchases of food and merchandise.

According to the report, which surveyed 236 museums, visitor revenue only covered about 15% of museums’ total expenses. Museums invested about $53 per attendee, while the average guest spent less than $8. This data was based on the 61 million recorded trips to art museums that occurred during the last fiscal year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, art museums rely primarily on private charitable donations to both create and maintain their collections. The report found that 54% of contributions to museums in the past year came from individuals, as opposed to 13% from corporations. These donations added up to over 73,000 works of art—almost six times the number of artworks museums purchased during the same period.

Christine Anagnos, the executive director of the Association of Art Museum Directors, hopes to continue collecting this data to observe trends over time in museum donations and gift-giving. She noted that corporate gift giving “isn’t as strong as it used to be. That’s coming through loud and clear in this report.

However, now that museums can aggregate this sort of data digitally, Anagnos hopes the continually updated information will allow them to gain insight from trends and improve the interactions between museums and the individuals and corporations who donate to them.

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